Gene Roberts’ ambition in life was to be a servant of God. This came from his mother’s guiding hand in raising Gene to love and respect all people as creatures of God. In 1966 he found this fulfillment enrolling in the Baha’i Faith in Manteca. Gene loved to tell people about Baha’u’llah, (His title means “The Glory of God”) the Prophet Founder of the Baha’i Faith. He appreciated the Baha’i teachings about the oneness of all mankind, the basic relationship of all the world’s great religions to each other, and the fact they are all from the same God.
Gene Roberts was born July 15, 1914 in Texas, the first-born of Molly Roberts and Jim Roberts. His sister, Cardelia Roberts, was born about 1922 in Nagadouches, TX.
His father, Jim Roberts, was a very smart man, but had never had the opportunity to learn to read or write. So, about 1929, Gene and his sister taught their father how to read and write. In Pittsburg, TX, Jim became a lawyer and practiced law the rest of his life.
Gene left home at an early age, about 16, and went into the sport of boxing as a career opportunity. He fought in the lightest weight categories and as he grew older, he sought ring fights with men in higher weight categories.
Gene joined the US Army for 2 ½ years, being stationed in Lousiana, and Ogden, Utah. He served as a cook/MP/and helped with the logistics of moving troops. His boxing experience gave him training in boxing that was so good, he was selected to be on one of the US Army boxing teams that raised the troops’ morale.
During Gene’s army years, he married his girl friend during a furlough, but later she asked for an annulment of the marriage. Regretfully, this had a lasting affect on Gene and he never married after that painful experience.
Gene’s boxing career was one of promise, skill, success and disappointment. Some people knew him as “Milo Savage” he was both tough and successful. Unfortunately, his fight manager was not as skilled. Although, he beat almost everyone he fought, even one or two categories larger than his natural size, his manager was only able to get low paying, non-title fights, that warned potential opponents not to take him on in title fights.
After his military service, Gene worked on the railroad in the dining car as a waiter and worked his way up to being the chef. Later, in Texas, he owned an entertainment club, occasionally hosting famous jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie. He always worked very hard and thoughtfully at everything he did. He liked to reflect on his life as a servant to other people. In a spiritual sense, this was a major reason he found his love for Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, who teaches people to be servants to all mankind as their highest calling to promote peace, love and unity.
During the 60’s in Manteca, CA, Gene was a well known, popular owner of a shoe shine parlor in downtown Manteca. Everyone in town knew Gene as a popular, affable man, who always had a smile on his face and a warm greeting for his customers. He did the best shoe shine in town!
The Baha’is of Manteca had a teaching campaign in 1966, and a Baha’i youth, Vicky, and her teaching team were the first people to tell Gene about the Baha’i Faith. Gene recognized the greatness of Baha’u’llah and his mission to fulfill the return of the Christ Spirit he had learned about from his roots in the south. This had a lasting affect on Gene and he read and studied the Baha’i Teachings, and made them an important part of his life from that time on. Gene once confided, since he was almost 50 years old, when he became a Baha’i, he asked Baha’u’llah to give him another 50 years, so he could have more time to teach people about the Baha’i Teachings. Gene has taught innumerable people about his love for Baha’u’llah, and has been a stalwart Baha’i in the Manteca/Lathrop area for over 50 years, now. He served as a member of the first Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Manteca, and for many years later. It is wonderfully touching to see he received his sincere wish.
Gene’s outstanding qualities of steadfastness, humility, teaching others, and love for all mankind will be missed by all his friends. Gene looked forward to entering the next world, when he would pass from this plane of existence. He welcomed the fact that his soul would progress through all the worlds of God, just as a bird that is let out of its cage. We all wish him well on his new found flight and journey.
Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin
Saturday, April 27, 2013